In Atlanta, the Braves had finally given up on Allen, who was refusing to return their calls. On April 27, when the Phillies were the only team to claim him from the waiver list, trade talks resumed.
Last week, after 10 straight hours of off-and-on telephone negotiations, the deal was made. The Phillies got Allen and Reserve Catcher Johnny Oates in exchange for three minor-leaguers and $150,000. The problem of where Allen would play had been solved the day before, when First Baseman Willie Montanez was traded to San Francisco for Centerfielder Garry Maddox. "Just a coincidence," insisted Owens. "The two deals had nothing to do with each other."
The trade was announced at an overflow press conference last Wednesday. Clutching a borrowed bat, Allen was positively angelic. "I'm not anticipating any trouble," he said. "I've learned a lot through my journeys. There's a lot of difference between a man and a boy. I'd like to think I've grown up."
The Phillies would like to think so, too. Finishing their swing through St. Louis and Atlanta in high spirits, they agreed to a man that the East Division title was all but won. "With Maddox and Allen," said Catcher Bob Boone, "we've got the toughest lineup in baseball."
Even Tommy Hutton, Montanez' temporary successor, was pleased. "When Willie was traded I thought, 'Great, I'll play regularly.' Now, with Allen, I figure maybe I'll get a World Series share."
The one melancholy note in the bubbly chorus came from rookie Alan Bannister. In less than a week he had lost his position to Maddox and his No. 15 to Allen. "Great for the team," he sighed, "lousy for me."
Manager Danny Ozark was feeling good all over. With Allen's contriteness, he could not imagine any of the problems which had cost two Phillie managers their jobs and prompted another to say, "God Almighty hisself couldn't handle Richie Allen." Bull Luzinski said hopefully, "He's too smart to hurt us. He knows we have a chance to win it."
Back at Veterans Stadium, the 33-year-old superbly conditioned Allen was preparing himself for his debut this week. Except for two batting-practice pitchers he was completely alone, a status he had favored in 1969, that last stormy year with the Phillies. "I wish they'd shut the gates," he said then, "and let us play ball with no press and no fans."
What happens with the gates flung open should be interesting.